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by Lynn Seiser

Breathe in, adversity
Breathe out, adversarial

The first noble truth is that life has suffering. I know that the current social norm is to believe that everyone is entitled to perfection without any effort because, well we are all just so darn cool. Life has never been that way for me and I often felt (past tense) bad about it. Then I learned to accept and appreciate the opportunity and experience that adversity and suffering brings.
Adverse: (1) unfavorable, unpleasant, poor, bad, difficult, harmful, (2) antagonistic, confrontational, argumentative, (3) contrary, opposing, hostile
Perhaps we all want things to be the way we want them to be. Perhaps we all want life to be free of any negative thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and experiences. Perhaps we all seek pleasure and tend to move away from pain. The word adverse brings up all those negative things we do not want. Maybe that is all it really means, that things are not the way we want them to be.

In the dojo, I have seen people have mental, emotional, and physical breakdowns because things were not the way they wanted them it to be. We often accept that we are training and learning something new, but do not think it should be so hard or take so long. I have seen some students actually think they should just be able to come in and do Aikido. Perhaps they have participated in some sport or trained in some other martial art, and (even though they have some good body coordination skills) Aikido principles and practices just go against everything they were taught and trained to do. Many other martial artists only see the adverse in Aikido (meaning they do not agree with it -- it is not the martial arts for them) and tend to bad-mouth and put-down what they do not understand and cannot perform.

In life, we are often looking at and make negative distinctions. In counseling, I hear people all the time using negative judgmental terms for just about everything they talk about, usually the other person in their relationship. Some actually come from families that only see the negative in life. We learn what to look for and how to think about our lives and our world by our family system of origin. It is like having a regional accent in speech. We cultivate, facilitate, and perpetuate a view that life is hard/adverse. What is funny is that the more people think that they and the world should be naturally and normally perfect, the more adverse everything appears because what is in the illusions of their minds does not match the realities of their lives and they want the world to change.
Adversity: (1) adverse happening, (2) misfortune, hardship, suffering, (3) difficulty, danger
By sorting and using only adverse /negative adjectives, we naturally perceive and conceive of everything opportunity and experience is life as adversity.

In the dojo, once we become negative there is a contagion that occurs and everything become hard and unpleasant. We often try to teach students not to create what they do not want and that thought directs energy. If they are generically negative, they create negativity in the people they train with. Perhaps one of the paradigm shifts of Aikido is to not to see training as adversity (under whatever negative term one wishes to use) and to see it as an exciting opportunity to learn how to redefine and reframe the opportunity, experience, adventure into a positive. Instead of a hardship, training is a privilege. We bow to each other in the beginning and at the end of training to respectfully say thank you for what we have learned from each other and for the place we meet. Adversity becomes an adventure on collaborative learning and living.

In life, the people who are resilience and expect life to have some adversities, and believe they have the life skills to overcome them, are seldom seen as counseling clients. I often ask my clients about their underlying beliefs about existence and the nature of humans. At first, it surprised me to find that many people are taught that to be human is inherently bad and there is no real escape from our original badness, but we were doomed to try and inevitably to fail. Actually, what surprised me was that at first I agreed with them. Life was just one simultaneous and sequential string of adversities, trails, and tests that I would fail (so why bother trying). Add to this the existential angst of believing we each are alone and it is easy to see why depression, anxiety, addition, and suicide are epidemic. Life was suffering and there was no way out. Yet, we can surrender to the adversity of life without fighting against it or giving into it. Adversity is a part of our everyday life. Reality is not always the way we want it to be. Sometimes things just do not go our way. Usually they are just a cause and effect consequences of poor thinking, decisions, and planning on our part. Perhaps it is also our perception and conception of the events that see it as a negative experience and existence. Life is just what it is. Perhaps we need to cultivate, facilitate, and perpetuate an attitude of gratitude, and bow to life in respect and thankfulness for another opportunity to face adversity and another chance to overcome it.
Adversarial: (1) confrontational, (2) argumentative, (3) combative, challenger, enemy, rival, foe, (4) antagonistic/antagonist, (5) accusatorial, (6) opposition/opponent,
I heard that if the only tool you have is a hammer that everything looks like a nail. If we only look for the negative and view everyday life as adversity, then we have to see everyone in it as our adversary and enemy and every relationship a fight (often until both/all have failed/finished).

In the dojo, we believe that because we study a martial art we are learning the martial way, Budo (the way of war). This may be truer of other martial arts (other than Aikido) that see their training partners as opponents and fight force on force against resistance. They talk openly with pride about their match, contest, or competition of over-come and beat another person. Some people do not seem to think of Aikido as a martial art because our founder saw that life had adversity and that people would be our adversaries and attempt to trap us into an adversarial postures, positions, and relationships. Others arts were overtly training their bodies and minds to act and belief this way by overcoming the flight or freeze response or reaction into a fight response. There is truly great benefit in that. Yet, does fighting ever end fighting? Making everything into a competitive contest and everyone an obstacle to overcome only perpetuates a paradigm that perpetuates itself. How do we turn our enemies into allies if we only resort to force and control?

In life, we are faced with everyday adversities and often believe someone else causes them. If other people would just be the way we want them to be our relationships with them would be so much better and so much easier. Because things are not the way we want, we project our paranoia and believe others are in a conspiracy to get us. I see people who say they love each other attempting to communicate and resolve their issues from these adversarial positions and postures that only perpetuates the problem they think they are trying to solve. They have been taught that love and life is hard work so even the simplest tasks become overwhelming and impossible. Even when presented with simple easy solutions (that actually work) many people fight against them because it violates their underlying assumptions and beliefs about the world and us as humans.

If you believe life is adversity and adversarial, then everyone (by definition) in it is an adversary. You will always miss the adventure of abundance and how many allies we can truly have.

Breathe in, adversity
Breathe out, adversarial

Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!
Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan), Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for over 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Yondan (4th degree black belt) from Sensei Dang Thong Phong of the International Tenshinkai Aikido Federation and Sensei Andrew Sato of the Aikido World Alliance. He is the co-author of three books on Aikido (with Phong Sensei) and his martial art articles have appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and IdentityTherapy and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders, victims, and families of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He is a professor of clinical and forensic psychology with an expertise in family violence and treatment. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains and teaches at Kyushinkan Dojo, Roswell Budokan.
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